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Dorms at Shepherd now asbestos-free, say officials

August 11, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.VA. - With five days remaining before the beginning of classes at Shepherd University, school officials say two dormitories that were closed after a discovery of asbestos are safe and ready for students.

Workers spent more than a month during the summer removing a sprayed-on finish from ceilings in Shaw and Thatcher halls, said Ed Magee, vice president for administration and finance.

The finish on the ceilings contained asbestos and was peeling from the ceiling in Shaw Hall, Magee said.

Although the material was not peeling in Thatcher Hall, school officials decided to remove it also, Magee said.

As the spring semester was coming to a close in mid-April, workers began removing the ceiling material in Shaw and Thatcher halls, which are on the west campus, Magee said.

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Entrances to the buildings were sealed while the work was under way, Magee said.

Boggs Environmental Consultants of Frederick, Md., oversaw the asbestos removal to ensure it was conducted properly, Magee said.

Initially it was thought that the work might cost up to $2 million, but it appears the cost will be about $1.7 million or $1.8 million, Magee said.

While the asbestos was being removed from the dormitories, university officials decided to make other needed improvements, said Richard Stevens, assistant vice president for student affairs and director of residence life.

Part of that work involved replacing carpet and windows in the two buildings, Stevens and Magee said.

The existing windows were replaced with energy-efficient models, which should cut down on utility costs, Magee said.

All rooms have been painted, new lights have been installed, smoke detectors were installed in rooms and key locks on doors are being replaced by a card entry system, Stevens said.

Switching to a card entry system will save money because school officials had to have a locksmith change locks on doors when students lost their keys, Stevens said.

Students at the dorms now will use their student identification cards to enter their rooms, Stevens said.

"We're very excited to have them back. Basically, it's like a new residence hall," Stevens said.

Classes start Monday and some students have started moving into the dormitories, Magee said.

After school officials announced in March that they had discovered the asbestos, 254 students living in the dorms were moved into other housing.

While "hard surface" items such as photographs and books could be returned to students after they were decontaminated, school officials said it would be up to the contractor handling the asbestos removal whether "soft fiber" items could be returned.

All the soft fiber items, which included clothes, sheets and towels, eventually were returned to students, Stevens said.

Students who believed any of their soft fiber items had been lost or damaged could file claims with the school, Stevens said.

Some students filed claims, but Stevens said he did not know how many.

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